Susannah Mandel’s short story “The Monkey and the Butterfly” is in Shimmer #11. She also has poems in the current issues of Sybil’s Garage, Goblin Fruit, and Peter Parasol.

Edd Vick’s latest story, “The Corsair and the Lady” may be found in Talebones #37.

Read Daniel Braum’s story Mystic Tryst at Farrgo’s Wainscot #8.

Luc Reid writes about the psychology of habits at The Willpower Engine. His new eBook is Bam! 172 Hellaciously Quick Stories.

Evening in the Chess-Cafe Star

by Rudi Dornemann

That Tuesday evening, like every Tuesday for the last couple of months, Maxim Abromovich Klebanov went to the chess café on Zaparin street. Javad Azaizeh waited at the usual table by the window. Like a third of the tables in the café, instead of chess pieces, the table was set with a shallow bowl of glass beads beside the board on each side. A new fad, the game with glass beads was as rigorous as chess but more abstract.

They made the usual small talk as they played — ostensibly, the older man was helping Max with his French, but they both enjoyed the challenges of the games, chess at first, this new game for the last few weeks. They placed the beads at the corners of squares or, when the rules allow, in the center. Javad jotted the score and corrected Max’s accent; Max was distracted —

3: Akbal: climbing the steps to the sky: even with the green of the trees beyond the city

Max’s peripheral mind read patterns in the bead arrangements as Mayan calendar glyphs and jaunted off on cross-reference tangents —

8: Lamat: topography in relief: overlays for infrastructure, political divisions, groundcover vs. cleared vs. paved : looped animations showing ebb and flow of cultivation over decades.

Max shook his head. His contract was very specific: the peri-brain implant was for work only. The company paid for the surgery and the monthly subscription. The connection should have ended when he left the building. He shook his head again. One idea opened into the next.

14: Ix: import export ratios for corn, beans, millet, rice: by district, by country, by continent: by month, by year, by rolling five-year interval: flurry of numbers: mob of colored charts

The clatter and conversation in the street, loud yet removed. Against the focused silence of chess club, the noise was like a pressure in the air.

Max had fallen silent, but Javad must have assumed his friend was concentrating on the game. The taste of dust from another continent, another century, was thick on Max’s tongue. Amidst the random firings of the peri-brain, he glimpsed a story, a life. He moved his lips, couldn’t find words.

20: Ahau: numbers flock and disperse: commodities markets, futures: a wind in the treetops: so many steps

The game was over. Javad stood, wrapped his scarf around his neck, said something. Reached out to shake Max’s hand.

Behind Max’s eyes, the cycle of days began again.

1: Imix: climbing still higher: above the trees now and nearer to the sun’s heat

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